Why live in Guernsey?
The idyllic pace of life, stunning scenery, pleasant climate, low unemployment, low crime and low tax rates are just a few of the reasons why approximately 60,000 people are proud to call this beautiful island their home. Only 40 minutes flight time from London, Guernsey offers an ideal balance between accessibility to mainland UK and tax seclusion.
There are two housing markets in Guernsey. The Local Market, which is reserved for the locally-qualified or ‘essential’ workers who have been granted a right to work in Guernsey. If you have been granted a licence to live and work in Guernsey and are looking for a property to match your allocated TRP, please use the TRP option in the property search. In addition to the Local Market, Guernsey has just under 1,700 ‘Open Market’ properties on its Housing Control register these are available for residents with UK or EU passports to purchase and occupy.
The Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British Crown Dependency in the English Channel off the Coast of Normandy. The Island stands 80 miles to the south of the English coast and 20 miles north of the French coast. As well as Guernsey, the second largest of the Channel Islands, The Bailiwick is made up of a group of islands that also include Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou and Lihou among others.
Alderney is the most northerly of the Channel Islands and has a population of around 2,000. It is one-and-a-half miles wide and three-and-a-half miles long. The islands has a varied history and, like all of the Channel Islands, has stunning scenery, beaches and and a plethora of fauna and flora at every turn. It has its own harbour and airport.
Sark, where cars are banned, is a chance to step back in time and benefits from one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. The sedate pace of everyday life is a welcome relief and the range of accommodation and quality restaurants make this the perfect weekend break. Sark is three miles long and a mile-and-a-half wide.
Herm, where cars and bicycles are banned, is just a 20-minute ferry ride away from Guernsey and is one and a half miles long and less than half a mile wide. It is the perfect place to get away from it all where relaxation and tranquillity make it a perfect retreat and a popular haunt for yachtsmen.
The island of Guernsey is divided into 10 parishes. St Peter Port is the capital and the most populated. Castel is the largest. Torteval is the smallest parish and the least populated. St Andrew’s is the only parish without a coastline.
In all islands across the Bailiwick, evidence of the Occupation by German forces during World War II can still be seen. The Occupation is arguably the most defining episode in the island’s recent history and imposing German fortifications, designed to answer any possible threat from Allied forces, can be seen around the coastlines of all the islands. Guernsey was occupied from 30 June 1940 before the islands were liberated on 9 May 1945. Each year on 9 May Guernsey’s celebrates this Liberation Day and the islands commemorate this with a designated bank holiday. Guernsey’s part in World War II began with the evacuation of children and some adults to safer parts of the UK on 20 June 1940. Just eight days later St Peter Port was bombed and 33 islanders lost their lives and many more were injured. This dark day heralded the invasion of German forces on 30 June and the start of a period of Occupation that had a profound effect on many aspects of Guernsey life.
Basically, Guernsey has had the right to govern itself, make its own laws and levy its own taxes since the time of King John. It intends to keep things that way, no matter what political faction is in power at Westminster. Constitutionally, it stands on firm ground and these rights are regularly confirmed by the Crown. The States of Guernsey is the parliament of the island of Guernsey and is officially called the States of Deliberation which is made up of 45 People’s Deputies which are elected every four years. The Bailiff presides over the States. Alderney has its own States and of its 10 members, two are appointed to represent that island’s interests in matters delegated to Guernsey under the 1948 agreement.
Links with the UK and EU
The Bailiwick of Guernsey is not part of the UK, instead a separate possession of the Crown, going back to the times of William the Conqueror. Guernsey is also not part of the EU. Guernsey has a special relationship with the Common Market under protocol 3. Most Common Market Law is not applicable in Guernsey and, as a result, the island is not required to harmonise its taxation with that of the Common Market.
Immigration and Nationality
There are no restrictions on persons who have the right to live in the United Kingdom and island under the provisions of the Immigration Act 1971, taking up residence or conducting business in the island. In addition, the same applies to any person who is a national of a European Union or other European Economic Community country.
Approximately a third of total income is generated from finance and Guernsey remains a popular offshore centre. While Guernsey is not a member of the European Union, the EU is forcing the island to comply more and more with its rules. As with other offshore centres, Guernsey is also coming under pressure from bigger nations to change its way of doing business. Guernsey is continually reviewing the way its tax system works in order to remain OECD and EU compliant. Guernsey also has a thriving non-finance industry. It is home to Specsavers Optical Group, which manages the largest optical chain in the UK and Ireland and also operates in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and Spain. Healthspan also has its headquarters in Guernsey.
Tourism, manufacturing and horticulture continue to be present, although perhaps not as significantly as in previous generations.
Due to the size of the island and the density of the population, there are strict controls on who may occupy dwellings on Guernsey. The island’s affluence and limited stock of land means that house prices compare with the wealthier parts of the south-east of England. The Housing Control legislation allows the Housing Authority to grant housing licences to persons brought to the island to fill positions which the Housing Authority considers to be essential to the well-being of the community. These housing licences enable such persons to occupy local market dwellings. Essential licences are sought by an employer and are limited to a specific post. Such licences are usually available for a fixed period, such as three or five years. In exceptional circumstances the Authority may feel that the granting of a permanent licence is justified. The law also allows approximately 1700 dwellings to be registered as available for non-locally qualified residents without the need for a licence. These properties are known as Open Market homes and are considerably more expensive than Local Market homes because of their restricted supply.
Right to work law
There is a Right to Work in place in Guernsey which basically means that if a person wants to take up employment or self-employment in Guernsey or wishes to change jobs, he/she must have a valid Right to Work document issued by the Housing Authority confirming that he/she is lawfully housed.
Taxation and Rates
Guernsey’s rate of Income Tax has stood at 20 per cent for about 40 years. There are no capital taxes in Guernsey. There is no council tax in Guernsey, there is Tax on Real Property and Parish Rates but these are very reasonable and particularly low in comparison with similar rates in the UK. Excise duties are charged on tobacco, beers, wines, spirit and petrol. Again these compare favourably with the UK. There is no VAT, CGT or Inheritance Tax in Guernsey.
Customs and Excise
Import duty is liable on goods imported from outside of the European Community and is collected at a rate common to all 12 Community countries.
Excise duty applies to alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and motor spirit is set and varied locally by the States of Guernsey.
A person who has attained school-leaving age but is below pensionable age is normally liable for the payment of insurance contributions under the Guernsey Social Insurance Scheme as an employed, self-employed or non-employed person.
The Guernsey Social Security Department runs a specialist health insurance scheme which covers the cost of specialist medical care by the Medical Specialist Group, ophthalmic services provided by the Opthalmic Group and inpatient physiotherapy. New residents do not become eligible to receive benefits under this scheme until they have been resident for 13 weeks. Outside of this scheme, residents are responsible for meeting the cost of treatment for their GPs, chiropodist, physiotherapist, optician and dentist. No charges are made to patients for hospital accommodation, nursing services or drug prescription while in hospital unless the patient chooses to be treated privately and undertakes to pay fees.
The States Education Department is responsible to the States of Guernsey for the administration of education in Guernsey. Compulsory school age is five to 15 years. Free primary education from five to 11 years of age is provided in infant, junior and primary schools within defined catchment areas. There are also a few private fee paying schools for primary aged pupils and also for secondary school children. There is a secondary selection test at the age of 11 which determines whether a child is placed at one of three secondary schools or given a special place at the Grammar School or one of the independent colleges. There are three schools catering for pupils with special educational needs.
Guernsey is part of the Common Travel Area, allowing passport-free travel to and from the UK. There are regular daily flights to several major UK airports, including Gatwick, and services by sea to Poole, Portsmouth and Weymouth. Traffic on Guernsey’s roads drives on the left. Roads are generally narrower and there is a speed limit of 25 miles per hour in urban areas and 35 miles per hour elsewhere. While the majority of road signs and junctions are the same as the UK, there are several anomalies specific to Guernsey. It is also worth remembering that the majority of the road names are in French. There is a regular bus service which incorporates all of Guernsey’s parishes and many taxi ranks throughout the island.
Guernsey benefits from relatively mild winters and cool sunnier summers. As with the UK, the hottest months are May to September when temperatures are generally around 20 °C (68 °F). On average, the coldest month is February with an average weekly mean air temperature of 6 °C (42.8 °F). Snow rarely falls and is unlikely to settle, but is most likely to fall in February. The temperature rarely drops below freezing.
Sport is everywhere in Guernsey and the traditional colour for the national team is green. Guernsey participates in the biennial Island Games and the island hosted this event in 1987 and 2003. Guernsey participates in its own right in the Commonwealth Games. Almost every sport is catered for on a regular basis with domestic leagues and competitions. Football, cricket, hockey, netball and rugby are among the team sports that have the highest levels of participation. The island has two 18-hole golf courses, many private health clubs and a public leisure centre, Beau Sejour which boasts squash courts, tennis courts, swimming pool, basketball and volleyball courts, theatres and arenas capable of staging large events. Guernsey’s sporting prowess is significant considering the modest size of the island. Matthew Le Tissier was one of the most talented footballers ever to play in football’s Premiership and represented England, Martine Le Moignan was world squash champion, Lisa Opie was British Open squash champion. Dale Garland has represented Britain at athletics while Andy Priaulx was motor racing’s World Touring Car Champion on three occasions in recent years. Up-and-coming tennis star Heather Watson was US Open Girls’ champion last year. Summertime is when Guernsey really comes alive when everyone seems to take to the sea from the island’s delightful tide-washed beaches and rocky coves. There is water skiing and surfing, too, and excellent sea fishing. If all this activity makes you feel tired there are gentler options. There is the cinema at The Mallard, while for those who enjoy music or the theatre there is St James Concert and Assembly Hall where you can enjoy everything from opera and classical music to songs from the musicals or plays. There are far too many places to mention to wine and dine, from elegant hotels to cosy bistros in St Peter Port.
The States of Guernsey website
The States of Guernsey runs a comprehensive website that covers in great detail all of the sections above. Visit www.gov.gg for more information.